January 19, 2004

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A new year

This week is going to be a slow one at work. Simply because this week is Chinese New Year. Which means most of Asia takes the week off.

One of the more interesting traditions, along with fireworks, dragon-led parades and ubiquitous utterings of "Kung Hei Fat Choy", is the passing of Lai See (lucky money). This is our first Chinese New Year here in Hong Kong, so we're trying to get our heads around this tradition. School is off for the week after the inevitable Chinese New Year class party. If I had as many parties at school as JC is having, I would wonder how I manage to learn anything. It basically seems that anyone who acts in some kind of service capacity receives a little red envelope with some amount of money in it. As do single people. I think the bus driver gets some. The security people at our apartment. It seems like a good tradition - many employers pay their annual bonus (up to an extra month's salary) at this time of year and it is a time of much feasting and celebrating. There's a further discussion over at Chris's place.

So I open my morning paper and a letter falls out. Mrs M takes it and laughs before passing it to me, being the man of the house and all*. I am paraphrasing a little, but it goes something like this:

Thank you for being a customer of XYZ Newspaper Agency. We are the people who deliver your newspapers in the wee hours of the morning [this generally being 7am, or only 10 minutes before I need to leave for work - ed.]. With the approach of Chinese New Year we are writing with regard to the custom of Lai See.

If you see fit to offer some amount of Lai See to our hard working boys, please do so by sending a cheque directly to XYZ, rather than passing them a red envelope. We will make sure the person serving your paper will be passed the Lai See and told of your generosity.

Of course you do not have to send any Lai See. Should you do so we will let your delivery person know of your good wishes at this time of year.

Kung Hei Fat Choi.

XYZ Agency

Here I am thinking Jewish mothers had the monopoly on guilt-trips. I'm tempted to not send anything just to see the consequences. At the moment the paper is thrown, hard, against our front door at random times in the morning, strewing the sections everywhere and usually managing to wake JC if she isn't already awake. We would be leaving Lai See for the newspaper person regardless but I feel a little odd sending a cheque direct to the employer instead. I'd like to know the delivery person is getting the money.

Plus the chutzpah of that letter makes it feel more like an obligation than a gift.

* Truth is it was passed to me because it involves money, and we all know Mrs M is the real boss. But never let facts ruin a good blog entry.

posted by Simon on 01.19.04 at 04:43 PM in the


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I don't think the money'll every make it to your paper boy...it's like the tips section of the credit card receipt, makes you feel good and the owners/managers of the restraunt feel even better.

Our building says that we are not allowed to give red pockets to their employees as they are government employees. Still in five years that hasn't stopped them from hinting (the guy is not only awake but gets up at the door) at this time of year :-)

Happy new year.

posted by: bijai on 01.19.04 at 09:08 PM [permalink]

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